Nobody knows about everything I’m dealing with, and that’s fine with me

Foggy view of a valleyI won’t bore you with the details (as much as you’d probably like to hear them in all their glory).

Suffice it to say, I’ve got a lot going on, and it’s unbelievably burdensome. Some days, I can’t believe I’m still upright.

And yet, I am. I keep going. I look for the positives. I remember my responsibilities. I don’t always handle things as well as I should, but I handle them.

And I don’t talk about it. I share with a few autistic friends I connect with online. I tell other people I know little bits, here and there, if I think they can help (I usually don’t).

One of the reasons I don’t tell people about everything I have going on, is that they’ll think I can’t handle it. They’ll think I can’t do my job. Or they’ll think I can’t keep up. I don’t feel like being limited by other people’s limitations of imagination and capacity.

Another reason is that I don’t want people feeling sorry for me. That’s the worst. Pity is poison to me. It kills the spirit and weakens the body. How will that help me? It won’t.

I also don’t want them reaching out to support me, because then I need to interact with them. Explain things to them. Get bogged down in their mirror neuron drama. Have to navigate their insecurities and neediness around my challenges – which they magically make into their own.

Another reason I don’t share is that the things I’m dealing with are Lots Of Big Things, any of which by themselves would overwhelm the average person. I don’t feel like being bogged down in other people’s protests that “It’s too much!” It is a lot, but other people trying to convince me that it’s all too much for me to handle just blocks me from handling it. So, why would I mention the full gamut of what I have going on?

But most of all, I don’t get into what I’ve got going on, because that distracts me from dealing with it all. My thought process is non-verbal and very visual. If I have to translate what I’m experiencing into words, it block me from accessing my most effective, inherent traits that can actually handle what’s coming at me. Talking usually makes everything worse.

So, I choose not to. And I just get on with the business of handling everything.

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The benefits of extreme difficulty

antique phoneQuick post for today, before I gear up for the four-day family reunion extravaganza.

And no, I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not looking forward to it at all. My family is overwhelming. My parents are both on the spectrum, and my mother is hyposensitive, which means everything has to be loud and over the top for her to perceive it. So, EVERYTHING IS LOUD AND OVER THE TOP.

Which is painful, to say the least.

But I digress. This post is really about how I’ve developed some pretty impressive telephone skills, over the past several years. My job has devolved from hands-on, direct involvement in What Gets Done, to sitting on the sidelines, watching everyone screw everything up, and then being helpless to change the course of things. All I can really do is observe and then report. Which is maddening for me. I need to be hands-on, not pushed to the side. Plus, when I see people making terrible mistakes with their choices, I can’t just sit by and watch. I need to do something. Say something. But my input gets pushed aside, so…

I’m looking for a new job.

One of the things I’ve done more, for the past 3 years, than I’ve probably ever done before, is talk on the phone. Now, mind you, I have auditory processing issues, and it’s really hard for me to do phone conversations. But for years (especially the past year), I’ve spent anywhere from 6-10 hours in a day… guess what … talking on the phone. Listening. Trying to follow. Having that be my only connection to my colleagues, who are halfway across the country.

Augh! It’s been horrible.

So painful.

On the other hand, it’s been very helpful in training me to do well on the phone.  I mean… really well.

Funny, how that goes. When I don’t get something, I really don’t get it. But once I figure it out, and I come up with my own system and techniques, I can be really, really good. As in, second to none.

As it turns out, working the phones is now that sort of thing for me.

Everyday, a new adventure…

Ha ha! I’m going to quit, anyway! :D :D :D

cowboy herding cattle in dustI’ve been wrestling with the odious task of putting together a PowerPoint presentation for my boss – who’s covering for me at a workshop next week, while I’m at a family reunion. Personally, I think I’d rather go to the dreary slog of daylong meetings of people droning on, rather than dealing with my family for four days straight… but that’s now how things turned out, this time.

I guess, instead of sitting at a table, surreptitiously checking my social media 😉  while I feign “engagement”, I’ll have to pay attention to real live people with whom I (ever so reluctantly) grew up.

That whole reunion thing is a hot mess I just can’t even get into, right now.

But back to the PPT (as we so fondly call those instruments of corporate torture)…

I’ve been sweating over it for days, because it’s going to be presented at some Highly Momentous Planning Session that you’d think was swaying the future of the known-and-mapped world, the way people are going on about it. Basically, the workshop is pretty important. But that’s only because it’s the only way they can get all the chronically distracted people to pay attention to the same thing at the same time, so they can audibly commit to doing the jobs they’re supposed to do, anyway.

For this, I need to fly halfway across the country?! If people would just do their jobs, we’d be that much better off.

But I’m being unrealistic. For them, anyway.

And this Momentous Occasion will depend on me delivering Just The Right Amount Of Information, orienting everyone to the present and future state of the technology we’re in the process of delivering (late). Pressure, pressure. Meetings with my boss. And my boss’es boss. And reviews by the boss’es boss’es VP boss. High drama, indeed. So, it has to be right. And I’ve been sweating it.

But every now and then, I have to deliberately remind myself — I’m leaving this job at my first opportunity, so the pressure is off. When I go, the waters will close behind me, like the Red Sea enveloping the Egyptians behind the fleeing Israelites. And I shall be free to move about the desert as I choose. 🙂

Yeah, I can’t wear myself out with worry over things like Getting Everything Right. It’s in my autistic nature to fret over details like that. But honestly, all I need to do in the neurotypical world is come up with something halfway passable, and then act the part of someone who is extremely self-possessed and commanding. NT people love that. They really do. It doesn’t matter – at all – if there’s any substance to it. All that matters is the feeling of confidence and surety I give them, when I talk. It’s taken me years and years and years to get that substance usually takes a back seat to form with non-autistic people. And it’s taken me even longer to come to terms with it.

But hey, that’s how they roll, and as long as I can hack their behavior and simulate something that works for them, that’s cool. We’re cool. And that’s how I get ahead. I am often (by definition) an impostor in the process, but then, so are they. And if they don’t care, I can’t get worked up over it.

Whatever works.

Plus… ha ha! Even if my PPT is a dismal failure (which it won’t be, because I know how to REPRESENT!!! when I present to those folks)… I’m still leaving at my first opportunity.

And no, the proverbial door will not hit me on the way out. They’ll be eating my dust.

What’s right with this picture?

Ha! One of my Autistic buddies brought this to my attention:

Behavior suppression is not behavior modification

As pretty much any Autistic person can tell you, the creators of this handy infographic are spot-on about this:

Behavior suppression is not behavior modification.

News flash for the ABA “practitioners” in the crowd.

Behavior suppression is not behavior modification.

And, in fact, addressing root causes not only modify behavior, but they completely remove the need for the behavior, to begin with.

See, lots of the “unacceptable” behavior that Autistic folks exhibit is in response to stressors around us. Like, the whole world’s worth of stressors. We do what we do for a very good reason, but not many people seem the least bit interested in understanding why that is.

I’m tired, tonight. I’m tired of having to think about this stuff. But yeah, I do.

And that’s unfortunate.

Oh, well. Good night.

Seriously people, #Autism is Not That Difficult To Understand

Sigh. Just sigh.

You try being constantly bombarded with obnoxious smells, sensations, sounds, contact, and getting exhausted

every

single

moment

of

the

day

and then being all sweetness and light for people who don’t bother to actually say what they mean, or mean what they say.

You try having some ethics and logic in the midst of lying sacks of sh*t who only want to get laid… not actually contribute something to the betterment of the world. And no, your spawn does not count as a “contribution”. We’ve got too many of them, already.

You try building the world around you, only to have opportunistic predators push you out of the way, kick you out of the world you designed and built from the ground up, out of the sheer imagination and inventiveness of Autistic minds…

I mean, it’s the ultimate irony, that non-autistic folks use the internet to perpetrate their cluelessness. Idjits. We actually built it to counteract your… um… deficits.

To no avail.

I’m tired, tonight. Can you tell?

Non-autistic antics have worn me out. And there’s no relief in sight.

And people wonder why we melt down in public.

Look in the mirror. Living in the midst of all the self-consumed, perfume-wearing, nonsense-driveling, non-autistic drones would drive any sensitive person to uncontrollable wailing on a regular basis.

The only difference between the kids who do melt down in public, and me, is that I’ve had half a century to learn how to not do that.

Whatever.

I have no idea why I even wrote this.

I doubt it will do any good.

So…

disregard.

Getting past maintaining

programming code with speed streaksWell, it’s been an interesting bunch of months. It’s all been a blur, to be quite honest. In fact, it’s been a lonnnnng blur, as my day job has consumed so much of my attention and wreaked havoc on my peace of mind, and about six months ago, I came to the conclusion that the line of work that I used to love so much, is no longer a welcome place for me.

It’s been overrun by wanna-be pretenders who are just in it for the money. They posture and make a good show of knowing what they ‘re doing. But they don’t. And since the People In Charge believe their con-artist act (and they appear to be cheaper than actual performers like me), there’s no chance they’re ever going to step back and be replaced by people who actually do know what they’re doing.

Yeah, that’s just how things are. And if I think it’s going to change, I’ve got another thing coming.

So, I’m letting it go. My day job is just a way to pay the bills, while I focus on my other ventures which are mine, all mine, and are a true reflection of what I do and what I’m capable of.

And that’s fine. Because I really need to do my own thing in ways that actually make sense for me. I need to invent. I need to build. I need to innovate… and do it with sound principles that actually work, rather than just going with flashy bells and whistles that don’t actually do the job.

I’ve got a ton of great skills from over 20 years of doing what I do, and I trust my judgment implicitly in this regard. So there.

Which means I get to just concentrate on what I want to do, how I want to do it, and what good it will do for the world. And I get to do it at my own pace, in my own way, and based on logic, rather than flash and glitz.

Which is why I really haven’t been around this blog very much. I’m building out technology that makes sense to me. I’m coming up with solutions to common problems, and I’m developing stuff in ways that I think they should be developed, rather than what’s considered hot and nifty by the prevailing sensibilities (if you can call them that).

I get to be logical. I don’t have to follow the herd. I can actually think creatively and practically. I can be pragmatic, and nobody’s going to penalize me for it. I can learn and study and apply what I’ve learned in amazing ways. I can see the results of my work right in front of me — right there, right now, right as rain (as they say).

And if I’m wrong about something, my computer will tell me that. The code will fail. The application will hiccup — or barf. Then I’ll go back and try again. And keep going until I get it right. Sometimes it takes me days and weeks and months to solve a problem. But if I still with it, I solve it. I see the solution right there.  Right now. Right as rain (as they say). And I move on to the next thing.

And this gets me past just maintaining. It gets me past the old way of just slogging through the day-to-day, hoping and praying for a break. Everything has been so awful for such a long time at work. I haven’t wanted to dwell on it, because if there’s nothing to be done, there’s no reason for me to wail and gnash my teeth about it. That’s just not a great use of time. I’ve downplayed how wretched my work situation is, choosing to not even mention so much to my partner or others. It would totally alarm people to know how desperate and despairing I’ve been over the past three years — especially the past two years — so why go into it? I’ve just needed to endure. Just get through it, and trust that something will change, if I keep working diligently behind the scenes.

A lot of the stuff I’ve done in the off hours has been to get some relief from the awfulness of before. I just needed a break. So, I really plunged into a lot of special topics and areas of intense focus. The whole reason for doing them was to relieve my pain, not create something that would elevate me. It was all about maintaining. Keeping my sanity in the midst of the mediocrity and madness (and I’m literally talking about madness, here, not a euphemism or hyperbole — it really has been mad, in the sense of being severely mentally ill, delusional, etc.). I’m not sure which is worse — mediocrity or madness. On any given day, it’s a toss-up.

That’s how it’s been before, anyway.

But now I don’t need a break from my day job anymore. I now have so much else in my life that’s actually mine, that nobody can take from me. I guess pursuing all my projects is a little like having kids — they’re my creations that I can tend and “raise”, and they become something other, something different… changing me in the process, as well. Obviously, they’re not exactly like having kids, as I’ve been reminded by flesh-and-blood mothers who resented that I’d ever compare myself to them. Hm. OK. Whatevs.

I do feel very strongly connected to all my applications, however. After all, they’re literally keeping me alive in some very important ways. They keep my mind alive. They restore my spirit. They bring me back to a place of flow and insight. They’re vital to my very survival. And I’m not exaggerating.

My partner was asking me the other day, why I’m so consumed by my coding. I told her (in so many words), “Because it’s actually logical. I spend all day, every work day, being told that things can’t be done (mainly because the people doing the work don’t have the skill or vision to do it), and it’s maddening. But when I do my own work, I actually see something take shape. And I prove to myself that, yes, that can be done. For real. At work, I have no control over what others do. But in my own coding, I can influence what happens. I actually get to decide what happens. And I get to decide for the right reasons, not because of some lame-ass political motivation.”

I think she understood. Whether she does or not, is immaterial. She likes to read books, and she spends many long hours in bed reading (which isn’t all that healthy, to tell the truth). As for me, I’m up early, every day, thinking about my coding. And my “escape” is actually an act of creating something new for the world, making things, bringing stuff into existence that never existed before.

With that being said, it’s time to get back to work and code some more. I have my work cut out for me. And it’s good. I’m not just maintaining anymore… hanging on for dear life, as the field of work I love is overrun by incompetence. I’m doing my own thing, and that’s pretty cool.

Now that the dust is settling

red balls inside chrome boxesIt’s been a few months, since I blogged here. So, I guess I’m due. I’ve been really busy on a handful of personal projects that have really taken off. Some of them have good potential to do others some good. And that’s great. Of course, it takes a very different skillset to market and sell things, versus designing and building them.

I’m in the process of looking for folks who can help me with the former — the people stuff, y’know?

If I put my mind to it, I can definitely sell. The problem is, Alexithymia gets in the way, and I literally can’t tell how I’m doing on a sale. Plus, auditory processing issues keep me from hearing clearly what people are saying to me. The whole sales process is nuanced and people-centric, so while I could apply myself and learn how to do it, I tend to stay in my little comfort zone of designing, architecting, and building tools and applications. Because I can. It’s comfortable. I do it very well.

Still, it seems like it’s time to expand my skills somewhat. And get more into sales and marketing. So, I’ve been doing a bit of that new training. It’s interesting. Confusing. But I’ll figure it out.

As usual, I digress. Meandering on a Sunday morning.

I’ve been rediscovering some old passions I used to have. Languages (not English). Reading and writing in them.

I’ve also been reaching out to meet new people online, connecting with like-minded people who are learning the same new skills I am. It’s pretty cool.

And it also gets to be a little much. I’m far more comfortable being non-verbal and coding away, building applications, testing them, retesting, tweaking, etc. I can (and do) spend hours at a time focused on just that. Being in the zone. Finding Flow. Just being able to reset my mind back to its normal state, after being bombarded by people and phone calls all week.

My job, ironically, now consists almost entirely of talking to people on the phone all day, every day. It’s the last thing I have any interest in doing. Plus, many people have thick accents, and it’s hard for me to listen and understand. So, I pretty much fake my way through it and pretend I know what’s going on. I’m not sure anyone realizes just how … “simulated” … my work performance is. But that’s what it is — a performance. And it’s paying off, since I’m probably going to get a promotion.

But geezizfukkinchrist, it’s so depleting. Yeah, I need a new job. But I’m so exhausted from just trying to maintain, who has the energy to go out and stir up something new? Plus, how will I know it’s not even worse somewhere else?

Well, I don’t need to figure that all out right now. I get my bonus at the end of March, and after that I can start thinking about other things to do with my life.

In the meantime, I’m just coding away, having fun with it, and reading non-English works by people who think very differently from the mainstream.

#Autistic preparation for the weeks to come

road leading through colorful woods

It’s that time again. Holidays are upon me, and the inevitable questions arise. Are we coming to Thanksgiving dinner? Are we making the trip down to states located 8 and 16 hours away from us? Will we make the drive? Are we coming to Thanksgiving dinner?

It’s so … complicated. I’m just coming off a month’s worth of travel, if you include all the preparation (which I do). Going on trips for work is a lot of effort and requires a monumental amount of energy. But then you follow that up with an 11-day trip out of the country to parts unknown, surrounded by thousands of strangers (many of whom want to interact and won’t let you get away from them without exchanging at least some words – gods help me)… and that’s just waaaay too much.

But wait – there’s more! Thanksgiving is just around the corner, metaphorically speaking. And that means even more excitement. Family. Friends. Traveling to places that aren’t friendly to queers. (That’d be my partner and me — big ole queers – and proud of it!) Houses that aren’t accessible for my partner, who’s got significant mobility issues and needs a scooter to travel distances more than 20 feet. Scents and sounds and all sorts of sensory overwhelm. And lots of people wearing perfumes because they think it smells great.

… Let me pause for a moment to get myself something to eat, because just thinking about it is driving my blood pressure up, and I’m feeling just a tad hypoglycemic …

Okay, that’s better. I got my cereal and another cup of water, and I’m good.

So, where was I? Oh, yeah… the holidays. When everything gets so frantic and amped-up that I feel like I’m under constant attack. By everything. There’s way too much color at holiday times. What is it with all the red? And sparkly things. Sheesh. You’d think we were all a bunch of magpies. Then again, some people are, so…

Probably the worst thing about it all is how demanding everyone gets. Needy. Hypersocial. With lots of unspoken rules about how you behave (or don’t), that don’t necessarily apply the rest of the year – so I can’t practice. Do I wish people Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or Blessed Yule or Happy Kwanzaa, or what? I tend to stick with “Happy Holidays”, since it covers everybody generically. The last thing I want to be is non-inclusive and obnoxious, but people don’t make it easy. Especially folks who seem to belong to the secret club that teaches them the secret handshake from a very young age.

Sigh. I get tired, just thinking about it — and look, it’s nearly time for my afternoon nap! That’ll be welcome change. I’m still really tired from my October-November travel. So, I’m probably in no shape to be saying/blogging anything, right now, but you’re kind of stuck with me for the next few paragraphs, ha-ha!

So, back to my complaining… 😉

Actually, let me rephrase – back to my discourse. I’ve been through 52 holiday seasons, thus far. This will be my 53rd. By now, I have figured out a few things.

  1. Stay focused. Keep my eyes on the prize – January. Like the picture above, keep the focus on where I’m going, and let the rest of the details just fade to the periphery.
  2. Take care of myself. I’m not a turkey, so I’m under no obligation to end up “dinner” for someone else. I have a choice about what I do with my holidays, and if that means disappointing or alienating people in my family, then so be it. If they can’t be bothered to extend themselves to my partner and me, then why should we extend ourselves to them? I have to make sure to eat right, exercise regularly, keep conscious and conscientious about my habits, and just be easy with myself, as the weeks unfold.
  3. Do what I can, and leave the rest. I have to take care of myself, as I’ve said, and I can’t be indulging every single convention, for the sake of fitting in. Yes, yes, I know what’s done, this time of year. Parties. Shopping. Gifts to out-gift all other gift-givers. Social extravaganzas. And I’m not a fan. Surely, there must be a far better way. If one doesn’t come ready-made, I’ll come up with one, myself.
  4. Leave it. Seriously. Leave the rest of the world to its machinations and gyrations, and just settle into my own Autistic ways. I have a lot of vacation time left from this year (especially if we don’t go away for Thanksgiving), which means I’ll have time to really immerse myself in the stuff I love the most. And get some things done. That would be the most delightful and wonderful thing of all. To actually be able to complete some of the projects I’ve started. Oh, glory and joy. How fantastic would that be! A grrl can dream.
  5. Go back to bed. I haven’t been sleeping enough. I haven’t been resting enough. It’s taking a toll.

Speaking of which… I’m gonna sign off now and wander back to bed. I just have to wait for the wash to do its final spin, then I can toss it in the dryer and head off to my dark, dark room.

And that’s about the most I can manage for the next few hours.

Which is fine.

Perfectly fine.

Am I going to be able to handle this? Do I have a choice?

Minoan bull leaping - three humans jumping over a charging bull

I’m in a modified “bull-leaping” state today. I’m getting ready for an extended trip with my partner, and she’s not doing well – physically, emotionally, or cognitively. She’s intensely anxious about the trip, where she’ll be speaking at an international conference. It’s a great opportunity, but with over 5,000 people there… yeah… it’s overwhelming.

So, there’s that dread/excitement.

And then there’s her physical health, which is not good. She doesn’t exercise. She sleeps a lot. And she spends most of her waking hours in bed looking at Facebook. She’s got mobility issues from arthritis and sheer inactivity. Muscle atrophy and all that. And she’s intensely allergic to, well, just about everything.

And then there’s the emotional piece. She’s all over the map. Cognitively, she’s been declining over the past few years, and with that comes amped-up emotions. Lots of fear. Sadness. Frustration. The whole nine yards.

So, it’s become increasingly challenging to live with her, deal with her ups and downs, and also handle all of the extra work of literally taking care of her. As the years pass, she’s less and less able to take care of herself, which I haven’t exactly helped because of my own rigidity. If she does things “wrong”, I have a tendency to flip out, and that keeps her from doing what she needs to do (even if I think it’s wrong – and, for the record, it is).

Autism has not helped us, in this respect. And as time goes by, and she’s increasingly dependent on me for so much, I feel the sting of my own Autism even more. It’s impairing, at times, this way I am. And just trying to keep up with everything – including increased business trips – really strains my patience and my endurance.

I’m a workhorse, though. I put my head down and soldier through. I make it happen. Because I can’t see any other way. And I might as well get used to this, because I’ve promised her I will never, ever put her in a home. And I won’t. People tell me I’ll reconsider that, on down the line, especially since she’s considerably older than me, and just when things are starting to fall apart for her, they’re starting to come together for me, according to mainstream standards.

But I can work around this. I can work with it. I don’t have to be flying all across the country to seek my fortune, like others expect me to. I don’t even want to do it, to be honest. I’d rather just stay home and work on my own stuff and spend time with my sweet partner.

It still gets to me, though, how limited support systems are for people like me. Those of us who have a unique constellation of qualities that make living in the world-as-it-is extremely taxing, and who have specific needs that aren’t typically addressed by the usual offerings… well, we’re kind of out of luck, in many respects. If we’re “too functional”, we get accused of just wanting attention. If we’re really impaired, we get our agency taken away and we’re treated like wards of society. If we’re on-again-off-again, we can’t really ask for help, because while we may need help one day, we may not need that the next.

It’s so frustrating. It’s maddening. Sometimes I just need help, but people’s own issues get in the way of them being able to be genuinely helpful.

Either they feel all sorts of pity for me, because I’m “impaired”.

Or they feel disdain, because I can’t do for myself.

Or they take it all in, watch closely, and then go talk to other people about me. That’s not helpful at all.

Gossip. Anxiety. Fear of perceived weakness. Total inability to treat others with dignity and respect, unless they’re just like them.

It’s worst with my family. Both sides are a problem. My family is a problem, because they love to gossip and judge and they don’t get the variable abilities thing (even though they’re so Autistic, it’s scary). My partner’s side of the family is so judgmental and they don’t treat her well. They make fun of her. They act like it’s the end of the world, if she just can’t keep up with everyone. They’re so busy going a million miles an hour – to where, I don’t know, because ultimately, they just end up back on the couch watching endlessly mind-numbing television – and if you don’t keep up!!!, well, there must be something wrong with you.

It makes us not want to be around any of them. Which is why we probably won’t make the godawful marathon trip to see them over Thanksgiving and/or Christmas.

People. Hrmph.

But I digress. The first task at hand is to finish all the errands in preparation for the trip, get my partner up early enough that she has time to take care of herself, pack, and make sure we have everything we need in the van. I’ve got the battery for her power scooter charged, and that’s good to go. I really do need to develop better systems for taking care of both of us. I’ve been resisting doing that, because it feels like capitulation. But screw it. I’ve gotta come up with some reliable supports for myself and make sure I’m up to the years ahead — however many those will be.

Caretakers often have their lives cut shorter because of the stress of caretaking. But I can’t let that happen to me. Somehow, someway, there’s got to be a way to engineer this properly.

And so I’ll do that. Through logic. Reason. Perseverance. And all the faculties I have at my disposal, which are many and various.

Main thing is to get enough sleep. If that doesn’t happen, everything falls down.

But enough of that. It’s time to kick this machine into gear and motor into the fray.

Occupying that space between…

child standing on a hill looking towards sunset with arms outstretchedThis past week, I was on a business trip, and man, oh, man… straight people can be pretty extreme about their gender compliance. And they can be pretty demanding, when it comes to others’ compliance, as well.

I spent four days in a row with my workmates, who are all profoundly straight and gender-norm-conforming. And what a pain in that ass that was. Talk about masking. I mean, seriously… I kept things pretty much under wraps. It wasn’t worth tangling with their fragile sensibilities. Their gender rigidity was intense. And they were definitely not open to any sort of divergence.

The new woman who’s joined our group is friendly and motherly and a long-time engineer. She’s also extremely traditional in terms of male and female roles, and she was quite keen on “the girls” sticking together when we traveled. There were three women in our group of nine, and she was always keen on keeping the women and the men separate. She’s new. We wanted to make her feel welcome. So, we went along with it.

But it was strange not to hang out with the guys. It was definitely a different dynamic, this time. On other trips, I’ve been the only “woman” in the crowd, which has been kind of strange, because the guys always treated me like a woman… although I’ve rarely felt even remotely “female”. Erg. Please. This is definitely not the group to go all-out Queer with. They spook easily, and frankly, I need to work with them.

So, on goes the mask. And I “tone it all down” in the way I do.

People might think I’m capitulating, that I’m not being true to my whole self. Yeah. No kidding. Thing is, I have to make a living. And this job has been the best deal going for me, for pretty much the past 15 years. Maybe longer. So, I make my concessions. At least they’re not assholes, which is more than I can say for most of the other gender norm-compliant people I’ve had the great misfortune to work with in the past.

Well, whatever. It’s all a grand adventure. It just makes me more keenly aware of how queer I really am… and how much I value what freedom I can find to just be myself, as myself, in the privacy of my own home… even if I can’t get it anywhere else.

I don’t consider myself transgender. I’m not sure I consider myself non-binary, per se. I’m just gender non-compliant. Fluid. Just being me, independent of any gender norms.

Whatever specific label and territory people have marked out… I don’t belong anywhere within their boundaries, no matter how queer they may make those boundaries.

Maybe I’m just boundless. Yeah… I’m boundless.